In today’s Bible reading, we get a glimpse of the secret to Jesus’ success in His ministry. It’s very easy to look at Jesus in His temptation and say, “Well, that was Jesus; He’s the Son of God! I can’t measure up!” Of course, we can’t measure up. But Jesus didn’t give in
Look at Luke 4:1. “Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” (CSB)
Did you catch that? We often think that the Devil leads us into temptation. And a quick read through today’s reading could lead someone to believe that. But Matthew (Matthew 4:1) brings out that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the very purpose of being tempted.
And look at Jesus’ secret after successfully resisting temptation. “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity.” Luke 4:14 (CSB)
Jesus’ secret was that He was full of the Spirit and He was led by the Spirit. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit and he tells us in Romans 8:14 that God’s kids are led by the Spirit. Paul further tells us, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (CSB)
Jesus’ secret to not giving in to temptation is the same secret available to you: Be filled with and walk by the Holy Spirit. What does that look like? It looks like submitting to His leading. I mentioned a few days ago that the results of being filled with the Spirit and letting God’s Word abide in us are the same. So my takeaway is that being filled with the Spirit is reading God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and memorizing God’s Word. It’s letting God’s Word operate in and through us.
Are you purposefully reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word on a regular basis? I’m not talking about reading and studying God’s Word on Sunday. You eat more than one day a week, right? Shouldn’t you eat God’s Word just as regularly as you eat food? (Matthew 4:4, Acts 17:11, Joshua 1:8, Proverbs 22:17-18 )
If you don’t have a plan to read the Bible, join me! This year, I’m using the 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan from the Navigators. You can download a copy here. This plan goes through the entire New Testament over the course of a year (Can you believe we’re halfway through already?!). It only takes about five minutes a day, five days a week. The Bible App will even read out loud the day’s Bible reading for you while you brush your teeth or drive to work. “I don’t have enough time” won’t cut it for an excuse!
Please download the plan or the Bible App (or both) and read through the New Testament (in a translation you can easily understand) with me through the rest of the year. I promise that if you will do this, your life will change!
This devotional was originally published July 2, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading we fast forward a few years and Jesus and His cousin John (the Baptizer) are about thirty years old. John steps into the Jordan River and preaches that people should repent of their sins and be baptized.
By today’s standards, John was a very politically-incorrect preacher. Nowhere do we hear him talk about self-esteem. Nowhere do we hear him say that God loves everyone and has a wonderful plan for them. Nowhere do we hear him talk about God’s grace and mercy. Nowhere do we hear him talk about how God wants you to have health and wealth if you would only have enough faith. Nowhere does he apologize for offending his hearers. .
No, John simply preaches the Law. He preaches the bad news that people are sinners and in need of forgiveness. Sinners? Surely not! Where is the gospel, the good news?
Recent conversations with Facebook friends have revealed to me the massive divide between what I believe the Bible teaches and what they believe. For these friends, our deepest need is to be saved from not being good stewards of our planet. To be Christlike is to be more loving and accepting, and less judgmental of others. There is no mention of the word or even the concept of sin as described in the Bible. There was no admission of guilt for any sin on their part. Sin is a problem other, less tolerant people must deal with. These were people who were raised in the church. And today, they are leaders in mainline churches.
Until people hear and understand their helpless, fallen condition (the bad news), they won’t have a desire for deliverance from that condition (the good news). Look back at our earlier readings from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. He begins with the bad news.
Look at the response of John’s audience in Luke 3:10, 12, 14. The exclaim, “What shall we do?” The Philippian Jailer asked the same question in Acts 16:30.
It isn’t until Romans Chapter 8 that Paul says that there is no condemnation for believers. (Romans 8:1) From that statement, Paul strongly implies that non-believers are still very much under God’s judgment.
Have you come to a point in your life where you realized that in light of God’s holiness, you have absolutely no claim to spending eternity with Him, much less walking with Him on this side of eternity? You may be better than many (or most) other people, but how do you compare with Jesus, the perfect man who was tempted just like we are, yet was without sin? (Hebrews 4:15)
I’m not just asking if you have sinned. Everyone (except Jesus) sins. I’m asking if you have ever come to God and confessed that you have offended your Creator and that you have an issue with a sin condition that separates you from His holiness?
This devotional was originally published June 29, 2019.
A few weeks ago, I commented on a parallel passage that Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18ff. Today’s Bible reading records Paul’s comments on letting God’s Word rule in our hearts. The results are the same in the two passages, so I would argue that being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) is the same as letting God’s Word rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:16).
Being filled with the Spirit and letting God’s Word rule in us overflows into our relationships with our spouse, in our family life, and in our work life. If you are a growing believer with a dynamic walk with God, your other relationships will be changed.
Oftentimes when we come to passages like Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, preachers will focus only on the relationship between a husband and wife. Paul addresses other relationships that are affected by a walk with God as well! And all of these affected relationships can be summarized by, “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people,” (Colossians 3:23, CSB)
Lest we get bogged down with the “s” word (“submission”), it’s simply a military term that means to line up in order. Take a look at a military unit. You see a group of soldiers of somewhat similar size and physical strength with somewhat similar intelligence. So on some levels, every soldier is equal.
But military rank has nothing to do with size. Military rank has nothing to do with physical strength. Military rank has nothing to do with intelligence. And in a good military unit, every member salutes his/her commanding officer, all the way up the chain of command. And yet, no commanding officer worth his/her salt will ignore or otherwise mistreat a subordinate. For one thing, the subordinate soldier may have an important piece of intel that the senior officer needs to know in order to lead the unit.
Admittedly, this illustration breaks down a bit when it comes to the marriage/family units (no one is a “commanding officer” and no one is a “subordinate”), yet the principle is the same: each of us has a different “position” in our relationships with each other, and under Christ as Head of the Church.
Let me say this as firmly as I can: The Christian life is not about changing our behavior. It’s about changing our relationships, beginning with our relationship with God and that overflows into our family and work relationships. None of us is any “better” than another. But all of us have a role to play.
Finally, note that in all of Paul’s instructions of submission (in this passage and elsewhere), Paul never tells anyone to make anyone else submit. In other words, Paul never tells a husband to make his wife submits to him. Paul never tells an employer to make his/her employees submit to him/her. The instruction is always given to submit oneself.
That’s the key takeaway from Colossians 3:23.
This devotional was originally published June 22, 2019.
“the thought and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis (esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation)”
Paul strongly demonstrated that Gnosticism is incompatible with Christianity as he talked about Jesus coming in the flesh and that the mystery hidden for the ages has been revealed in Jesus.
Paul’s statement in Colossians 2:9, “The entire fullness of God dwells in Jesus’ body” flies in the face of the Gnostic belief in the “evil” physical realm.
And the modern concept of being a “spiritual person” (v. 18) apart from having a relationship with Jesus Christ is right out of the Gnostic belief system.
Is your belief system based on a “spiritual tradition” that’s been handed down from generation to generation? Or is your belief system based on the infallible Word of God?
The integrity of the Bible has been preserved through generations is not merely a “spiritual tradition”. It is grounded in the reality of time and space. There is no special knowledge that Christians are to seek, only a knowledge of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3)
If you believe that a person can be a “spiritual person” and as such, be blessed with a heavenly reward, you need to go back and re-read Colossians Chapter 2.
Yes, we are to be “spiritual” people, but that spirituality is eternally linked with life in the Spirit, based on the Word of God.
And that’s why I’m writing these devotionals this year. I want to help you to see the importance and practicality of God’s Word in your life. I want you to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6–7, CSB)
This devotional was originally published June 21, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading in Philippians 3, Paul rattles off his Curriculum Vitae (resume):
“circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5–6, CSB)
Paul says, “You may think you’re religious, you can’t
“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8, CSB)
In comparison with all of the awards, all the trophies, and all the diplomas Paul had earned and treasured in his “BC Days” as a very devout Jew, he says all of those admirable things weren’t worth a crap.
Yes, I just said that. I said it because Paul said it. And he meant it.
Elsewhere, Paul emphasized his Christ-centric message:
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s
power,so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5, CSB)
Paul could have come to the Corinthians with eloquent messages. He could have impressed them with all of his learning. Instead, he focused on Jesus. As a result, God showed up in demonstrable power from the Holy Spirit.
We used to joke about how much we had learned in the cemetery, I mean the seminary. But as they say, there is an element of truth in humor. I can tell you from personal experience, reading (and amassing) a lot of theology books, learning Biblical languages, sitting in classrooms under world-class theologians, and writing a lot of papers doesn’t necessarily result in a closer walk with Jesus. In fact, sometimes these things can get in the way of a closer walk with Jesus.
Being a long-time believer and being a long-time church-goer doesn’t necessarily result in a closer walk with Jesus. In fact, sometimes these things get in the way of a closer walk with Jesus.
The only thing that will result in a closer walk with Jesus is spending time with Jesus. Spending time in prayer. Spending time reading His Word. Spending time studying His Word. Spending time memorizing His Word. Why?
Because we’re talking about a relationship. And the only way to grow closer in a relationship is to spend time together.
This devotional was originally published June 18, 2019.